Remote teaching ideas
Idea 1: MiniFlips. In a classical flipped classroom, the lecture is prerecorded; the class is spent on discussions and problems. Unfortunately, spending 2 hours watching (for students) and many more recording (for teachers) a video, followed by 2 hours in class is a great burden for students and teachers, especially during COVID. Instead, a “miniflip” is a short video of around 5 minutes (think TikTok not Youtube) for each lecture so that the students have a map of the lecture, and them to think about the main idea of the lecture the night before. Each Miniflip begins by piquing their interest with exciting work done at the frontiers, describes the main idea, then asks a deep question for students to reflect on. Then in (online or offline) lecture, I use Zoom (or traditional) breakout groups to discuss the questions. In the remote evaluation for Fall 2020, 87 students ranked the new ideas with a score of 3.57/4. Of 48 written responses, 21 were enthusiastic about Miniflips, with comments like “super, super helpful”, and “great way to get us thinking about the upcoming topics.” See RemoteTeachingEvaluationFall2020 for details. Miniflips can be constructed for philosophy, math, or even drama classes.
Idea 2: Pioneer Interviews While online teaching appears limiting, I decided in Fall 2020 to let it be an advantage by realizing that I could invite anyone from anywhere to enrich my classroom. I chose to invite the Internet experts who had invented the major ideas I teach for an interview by students during class hours. Normally, this is impossible (flights, time, expense). But it’s only ½ hour from the person's home wherever they are by Zoom! We had an astonishing response with even two of the inventors of the Internet (National Medal of Science winner Len Kleinrock and Turing Award winner Vint Cerf), Ethernet Inventor Bob Metcalfe, DNS Inventor Paul Mockapetris, and Spanning Tree Inventor Radia Perlman) agreeing to be interviewed. The pioneers convinced my students that they could innovate as well, and spoke of their own struggles. Vint Cerf, for example, has a hearing problem and gave one of my handicapped students advice in a memorable exchange. Of 48 responses, 17 spoke enthusiastically of the interviews: “I don't know a better way to learn than to talk to the people that invented it”, and “(took) advantage of Zoom to incorporate interviews with internet legends.” A student described both innovations: “both unique experiences and very much appreciated!”.